LOS ANGELES--Earlier today, during a visit to Sony's sprawling E3 booth, we were invited to spend some time with a playable demo of MotorStorm on the PlayStation 3. MotorStorm was conspicuous by its absence from Sony's pre-E3 conference earlier this week, but we're pleased to report that the demo we played today was well worth the wait.
Set in and around Utah's Monument Valley, MotorStorm is an offroad racer that will see fields of up to 20 vehicles competing simultaneously and in which aggression is not only tolerated, it's encouraged. Although the E3 demo of MotorStorm features only one playable vehicle, a buggy, the finished game will let you choose from at least seven different ride types, including motorbikes, quads, saloon cars, pickups, and big rigs. All of these vehicles were lined up against us for our three-lap race around the "Coyote Range" track, and it didn't take us long to figure out that each of them had its own strengths and weaknesses. Larger vehicles like the big rig are able to bully the smaller vehicles by pushing them out of the way, for example, but they're slower, and so unable to use any of the alternate routes that involve jumping over large gaps and such. Smaller vehicles are noticeably faster, but as the wheels of the larger vehicles churn up the mud and make an uneven mess of the track surfaces, handling them will become increasingly tricky, in spite of the game's pick-up-and-play handling.
Track deformation plays a quite significant role in MotorStorm, and the effects of the mud and uneven surfaces appearing on the track were noticeable even during our relatively short three-lap race. We could also see mud and dirt building up on our buggy as the race progressed, although the effect was purely cosmetic. Serious damage, on the other hand, adversely affected our vehicle's performance a little, and any time the damage was so bad that we couldn't continue we were treated to a Burnout-style slow-motion sequence of the incident that temporarily put us out of the race.
In the finished game, developer Evolution Studios is hoping that at least 16 players will be able to compete online, which should make for some really crazy races. The fact that the courses in the game feature different routes already seems to be doing a great job of balancing the different vehicle's performances, and it'll be interesting to see which vehicle, if any, ends up being the most popular online. And yeah, of course the MotorStorm demo that we played today doesn't look as good as last year's trailer, but it's a good-looking game, and the gameplay is every bit as action-packed as that trailer was. We look forward to bringing you more information on MotorStorm as soon as it becomes available.